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Question
Posted by: Charlotte | 2011-11-22

Compulsive behaviour

Dear Dr, my son is 27, ex-heroin addict, clean now for almost 6years. He suffers from severe headache''s(had slight brain damage on overdose) and also picks his fingernails non-stop to a point now that the fingernails and nailbeds are so damaged and actually looks horrible and must be painful as well, does this mean he might have compulsive behaviour doing this. He is off all meds and works hard, married happily and we are all very proud of him. He does smoke heavily but his phsyciatrist advised us not to push him to stop smoking - he started with heroin at age 14 till 21, I am also concerned that he might have serious health issues later in life, I read that he could also suffer low sperm count and I know that they will soon be thinking of starting a family. Thanks for your input. Best regards

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

headaches, of course, can have innumerable possible causes, and a careful assessment by a pain specialist or neurologist might have the best chance of working out what the cause is and how best to manage it. Stress, from whatever cause, can be a potent cause of headaches, and the nail-picking you mention is often associated with stress. Yes, there's a compulsive element to it, but this can also be a bad habit, grown from more incidental stress-related behaviour, and become habitual. CBT ( Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ) a form of psychotherapy can be very effective at helping one to un-learn bad habits, of thought and deed. It can also help him to learn to handle stress in other ways, and could even allow him to gently wean himself off smoking. I tend to agree with his psychiatrist that a more traditional and purely anti-smoking approach would probably not be wise ; but within a process of CBT, if it helped him to relax when he needs to without needing to smoke, might enable him to choose to take such a step.
He has done very well, of course, to get of and STAY off heroin for so long. Your own concern is commendable, but try no to worry excessively. A low sperm count is not likely, and isnt a definite and regular result of prior heroin abuse. A healthy lifestyle and good diet will probably enable him to have no problems in this area

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Our users say:
Posted by: Charlotte | 2011-11-22

Hi Dr, many thanks for your input and advice, yes it was a long, hard and psycologically a very painful process for him and me, no to mention his sister and little brother at the time, but we never gave up on him, after every relapse, overdose, rehab centre we just continued until he himself finally wanted to be clean and stay clean. That was the key, the addict must want to be sober and stay sober, not easy but he had a fantastic doctor and family support. Thanks again, for what we have been through this is minor and I am sure we will be able to sort it out.
Best regards

Reply to Charlotte
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011-11-22

headaches, of course, can have innumerable possible causes, and a careful assessment by a pain specialist or neurologist might have the best chance of working out what the cause is and how best to manage it. Stress, from whatever cause, can be a potent cause of headaches, and the nail-picking you mention is often associated with stress. Yes, there's a compulsive element to it, but this can also be a bad habit, grown from more incidental stress-related behaviour, and become habitual. CBT ( Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ) a form of psychotherapy can be very effective at helping one to un-learn bad habits, of thought and deed. It can also help him to learn to handle stress in other ways, and could even allow him to gently wean himself off smoking. I tend to agree with his psychiatrist that a more traditional and purely anti-smoking approach would probably not be wise ; but within a process of CBT, if it helped him to relax when he needs to without needing to smoke, might enable him to choose to take such a step.
He has done very well, of course, to get of and STAY off heroin for so long. Your own concern is commendable, but try no to worry excessively. A low sperm count is not likely, and isnt a definite and regular result of prior heroin abuse. A healthy lifestyle and good diet will probably enable him to have no problems in this area

Reply to cybershrink

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